MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has given Lincoln University $20 million, the largest gift from a single donor in the university’s 167-year history, the school announced Tuesday.
Lincoln, a historically Black university, was one of nearly 400 organizations and schools to get money from Scott over the last four months as part of more than $4 billion in donations.
Scott wrote about the organizations that were chosen in a post Tuesday, noting the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the need to help.
“Some are filling basic needs: food banks, emergency relief funds, and support services for those most vulnerable,” she said of the organizations chosen. “Others are addressing long-term systemic inequities that have been deepened by the crisis: debt relief, employment training, credit and financial services for under-resourced communities, education for historically marginalized and underserved people, civil rights advocacy groups, and legal defense funds that take on institutional discrimination.”
A number of other historically Black universities also received money, including Delaware State University. Easter Seals Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Greater Philadelphia YMCA, and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey were also among the recipients listed in Scott’s post.
The money comes with no strings attached.
And it comes after a vetting process employed by Scott’s team of advisers, who looked for “organizations with strong leadership teams and results, with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital,” she said in the post.
Brenda A. Allen, Lincoln’s president, called the gift “transformational” and said it would allow 2,100-student Lincoln to sustain its legacy, “reimagine the future of our University, and deepen our investments in students, who will, in turn, make positive impacts in their communities and society at large.”
The university, which is in southern Chester County, will fund new investments in teaching, research, and faculty development, as well as support need-based scholarships, the university said. The money will also allow every student to participate in at least one “high-impact cocurricular activity,” such as an internship, a study-abroad program, or research.
The money comes as colleges around the country have been hit hard by the pandemic, having to refund room-and-board costs and spend money on cleaning costs and other efforts to make their campuses safe. Lincoln earlier this year was also rocked by a controversy over its president. After some members of the board tried to remove Allen, she hired a lawyer to fight her ouster. State officials intervened and the board ultimately voted to negotiate a new contract with her.
Lincoln hopes other potential donors will be inspired to give, said Dwight S. Taylor, chairman of the university’s foundation.